I have many times consulted patients experiencing burnout and now I’m going to share with you 5 ways to support your mental health and avoid burnout. I practice those 5 ways myself since my goal is to live a life without much stress. That is not easy when things are busy as I’m sure you’re familiar with. Burnout is a very common problem in Iceland and to avoid burnout it’s necessary to support mental health.

1. Meditation

I personally love meditating because it gives me peace of mind and helps me achieve balance in my life. Meditating for just a few minutes each day can change your day, but the longer you last, the better. Anyone can meditate anywhere: you can meditate on walks, in waiting rooms or at work. I highly recommend this free 40 day meditation course, it‘s great for beginners (and for those more experienced) and it takes only 10 minutes out of your day. Don‘t try to tell me that you don‘t have 10 minutes to spare, just sacrifice some TV or social media time instead!

Studies on Meditation

When I first started meditating and recommending it to my patients I had no idea about all the research that had been done on meditation. Since then I‘ve read so many books about meditation, so here are a few studies that have stood out to me. If they don‘t convince you to start meditating, I don‘t know what will!

  • Research has shown that meditating can protect against memory loss by counteracting the thinning of the cortex, which happens naturally when we age.
  • Meditation strengthens those areas of the brain that have to do with emotional flexibility, learning and memory. The results of a study found that the brains of those who meditate contain more grey matter (the brain tissue that processes information) than of those that don‘t meditate. This suggests that meditating encourages positive emotions, maintains emotional stability and helps practice mindfulness.
  • In a 2010 study, the brains of volunteers were scanned before and after 8 weeks of training in MBSR (Mindfulness-Bases Stress Reduction). After the training, the meditators‘ brains had changed: there was growth in the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory, and shrinkage in the amygdala, which initiates our bodies‘ stress response.
  • Meditation‘s effect on our ability to have compassion for others has also been researched. After 8 weeks of meditation practice, the participants were supposed to take a cognitive test, but they didn‘t know that the waiting room was the real test. Two of three chairs in the space were in use, which left one chair for the participant, and when a man with crutches entered the room, the participants had two choices. Those who had meditated offered their seat to the man five times more often than those who did not meditate.
  • A 2018 study shows that mindfulness can help increase feelings of social connection. Participants partook in a 6 week meditation course and their general emotions and their social connection levels were assessed. After 6 weeks, they could stay mindful, even when they weren‘t doing mindfulness exercises. The meditators reported that this gave them a greater sense of a social connection, which promotes positive emotions. Furthermore, scientists have researched meditation‘s effect on attention span.

Doctors are now more likely to recommend meditation to patients with insomnia, chronic pain and immune deficiencies, and studies like these have definitely had their effect on that evolution. Furthermore, meditation is increasingly being used to treat depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

2. Mushrooms and Herbs to Strengthen the Nervous System

I‘ve worked as a herbalist for over 30 years and in my consultation I‘ve treated anxiety, depression, stress and burnout with both medicinal mushrooms and herbs that strengthen the nervous system. I use the Lion‘s Mane mushroom quite a lot, which is by far the most popular medicinal mushroom in Iceland for the nervous system. Click here to learn more about medicinal mushrooms and their benefits. Some of my favorite herbs for supporting the nervous system are Rhodiola, Tulsi, Ashwagandha, Valeriana, Lemon Balm, Linden Flowers and Schisandra.

3. My Favorite Books and Podcasts

In a way, reading is a type of meditation, at least if you pay full attention to whatever you‘re reading. I read a lot and I listen to podcasts because I love learning new things. I particularly like reading and listening to content about mental health, and that‘s why I‘m going to share with you my favorite books and podcasts.

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Podcasts

4. Relaxation Techniques

There‘s a lot to choose from when it comes to relaxation techniques. These three are my favorites and you can use them wherever and whenever you want.

  • Body Scan Meditation

Lie on your back or sit in a chair and get comfortable. Close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few minutes. Scan your body by paying attention to one body part at a time, I recommend going from your toes to your head. Breathe into the tension you feel to release it. Many of my patients have listened to this body scan meditation and said that it helped them relax.

  • Focus on the breath

Lie on your back or sit in a chair and get comfortable. Breathe in as normally and gradually deepen the breath: breathe slowly in through the nose and into your stomach. Breathe slowly out of the mouth. Imagine that you‘re breathing in peace and calm and breathing all the stress out of your body.

  • Gratitude

It‘s easy to forget to be grateful, but it‘s so important to appreciate both the small and big things in life. The beauty of gratitude meditation is that you can incorporate it into your life in countless ways: give thanks for your food before you eat or count three things in your head that you‘re grateful for when you go to sleep. By focusing on gratitude you can reduce negative emotions and anxiety.

5. Exercise

Regular exercise contributes to a healthy body and gives you energy, while reducing the risk of various diseases and helping us cope with the tasks of everyday life. Furthermore, exercising has a positive effect on mental health: the body releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling and reduce anxiety. Also, exercising promotes a positive self-image. In reality it doesn‘t matter what exercise you choose, as long as you raise your heart rate a bit and enjoy it. Here you can read more about what exercises I recommend (and enjoy myself)! 

About the Author

Anna Rósa is a medical herbalist and author of the bestselling book Icelandic Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses. She’s the CEO and founder of Anna Rósa Skincare and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in UK. It’s the oldest herbalist institute in the world, founded in 1894.

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Anna Rósa CEO and Founder of Anna Rósa Skincare